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Why I Am Not A Pessimist

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Things have not been going well lately, either in domestic or

international politics, with Iraq slipping in the direction of

Theocracy Lite, the left trying to induce a national Vietnam War

flashback, a total loss of momentum for any free-market reforms, and

new power grabs by the religious right. But it is important keep things

in perspective, and one way I do that is to remember back to 1979.

I like to say that I am optimistic about the fate of the world because

I missed all the good opportunities to be a pessimist. The last good

one was 1979, when the US economy was crumbling, inflation and crime

were soaring, the Soviets were on the march from Afghanistan to

Nicaragua, and Iran held American hostages with total impunity. We

seemed to be collapsing from within--and faced conquest from without.

That's why the 25th anniversary of Poland's Solidarity movement is such

a timely reminder. In 1980, just as the Soviet empire reached the

zenith of its power, Solidarity would begin to cause its collapse from

within. This movement would suffer horrible setbacks and it often

seemed doomed--but only ten years after being poised to take over the

world, the Soviet Union would start to simply evaporate.

It is hard to believe, even now, more than a decade later, that it

happened so quickly--but this has always served for me as a standing

reminder of the weakness of evil and the strength of the good. It is a

meaning well captured in this column by the Washington Post's Anne


[Robert Tracinski in http://www.TIADaily.com]


"Cross the highway, head toward the shipyard and look up. When I did so

a few days ago, I saw an enormous billboard featuring a list of cities:

'Gdansk. Budapest. Prague. Berlin. Bucharest. Sofia. Kiev.'... Until

recently, it wasn't easy to find public displays of pride in Poland's

democratic revolution.... Far from seeing themselves as part of a

peaceful revolution that stretched from Gdansk in 1980 to Kiev in 2004,

most Poles associated the collapse of communism with corrupt politics

and personal hardship.... Because their official representatives--the

government, the cabinet ministers, the members of parliament--hardly

seemed worth admiring, many Poles didn't think much of their country

either, whatever its economic growth statistics.... The festivities in

Gdansk...show that some kind of corner has been turned.... However much

they disparage it, the generation that witnessed their country's

transformation is finding that it's become a source of pride for their

children and a symbol of hope around the world."

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It is hard to be optimistic when there is so much wrong with the world. Yet, like you, I am too. To use the same point in time (1979), see how China and India have changed since then.

I am even optimistic about the Arab world. Of the countries there, only Iran seems to be taking a few steps backward. Yet, that too might precipitate a "tipping point". Change will not be uniformly good, and it will probably be muddled. My guess is that 2025 will see a freer world than 2005.

Indeed, I am more optimistic about the prospects for non-Western nations, relative to where they stand today. I don't thing the prognosis is as clear for western nations. Not that they will slide into morass, but that a relative "status quo" is a real possibility.

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